[By Feyi Fawehinmi]
As they say about London buses — you wait 3 years for a TWOTS and then all of a sudden, 2 come along in quick succession. I was very privileged to be a guest speaker at The Platform this year and my talk was titled “A safe place to do risky things.”
So many political and economic decisions are now so high-stake that experimentation is now close to impossible. But I hope that Nigeria can find that spirit and culture somewhere and somehow to seed the ideas that will guarantee a better trajectory.
I joked to a friend that approximately 89.7% of all the protocol expertise that exists in Nigeria is inside pentecostal churches. I haven’t been a pentecostal church regular in several years so it was interesting being a guest once again.
Being in the care of the Protocol Department of a church gave me a few things to think about. There was a professionalism, courteousness and seriousness in the way the guys went about their job that I admired greatly. From the ramrod straight guy with the distinguished looking salt and pepper hair who picked me up from the airport in Abuja very early in the morning to the guy who dropped me off (I’m leaving their names out so as not to blow their cover), all of them just went about their duty in a very non-flashy manner. This is important as nothing puts me off more than people doing protocol work waving their hands wildly or shouting while at it.
I asked a lady what the size of the department was in relation to others in the church and if they were the largest and she said “noooooo, we are very small because we are very selective about who we admit, given the nature of the job.”
After the event, someone asked if I noticed a fair complexioned slim guy at the event venue and I thought, yeah, I did see an unassuming guy standing around quietly that fit that description. Apparently that guy is the leader of the team. Again, there was nothing about the way he carried himself that made him look like an Oga in the Nigerian context. If I want to complain about one thing for the sake of complaining, it will be that the people who looked after me were excessively courteous.
Many people have opinions about the church, myself included, and its influence and role in Nigerian society. But I only have one question for you to ponder — how is the church in Nigeria able to get Nigerians to perform at such a high quality level, consistently, in Nigeria? I invite you to imagine the possibilities where the Nigerian government is able to get its army of civil servants to perform at a fraction of the level at which unpaid church workers regularly perform.
Sticking with government and IT matters, I hung out with a couple of guys in Abuja and an interesting conversation ensued, giving 3 unique perspectives around the table. To summarise, I was quite surprised at how difficult it is, in practice, to get civil servants to use their official email addresses.
One of the guys has worked in government at state and federal level and has successfully gotten civil servants to use their official email addresses. Let’s call him BTDT (Been There Done That). Another guy works in IT and has thus done a lot of work implementing various IT solutions for government agencies and ministries. Let’s call him Engineer. Finally, one guy currently works in a government ministry. Let’s call him Seevul Savant.
From Engineer’s perspective, the only way to get civil servants to adopt and use official email and IT is for the instruction to come from the very top i.e. the President. He thinks that the biggest problem is that civil servants believe that the government will read their emails if they use official emails which means that not only do they reject it, they actively sabotage any government IT (they prefer to be spied on by Yahoo and Google). He gave a number of examples where a Director would call them and say some IT equipment is not working and he would eventually go out to check and discover that someone had disconnected it from the wall or socket. Plugging it back in solves nothing since he would not have reached the car park before they disconnect it again.
But BTDT said you need not go that far. As a practical example of something that worked for him, he simply told civil servants that their payslips would only be sent to official email addresses going forward. Apparently civil servants don’t joke with their payslips. For Seevul Savant, the issue is reliability and storage, a charge which the Engineer denied.
Be that as it may, it is alarming the amount of official government business that is done through Yahoo email addresses. Which of course means that they are the personal property of the civil servants which they take with them when they leave government.
Overheard: Look, we in CBN are not witches. Most of the time we don’t even know what any individual company is doing. It is their competitors who are forever coming to report them to us. If I show you my phone, it is full of screenshots of people telling me their competitor is doing something illegal. Are you a screenshotter? Is this you? Stop it. But if you choose to continue, remember that, as the Bible does not say, one day the screenshotter shall become the screenshotted.
I’m starting to hate Nigerian banks a lot. Not just dislike or irritation but hate. That is, the stage where everything someone or something does just annoys you. They are extremely profitable in a protected and easy market and they just cannot raise their levels even a tiny bit.
Everyone complains about ridiculous charges and debits by the banks but they just carry on and leave the customer to spot their sleight of hand. Some years ago, a very senior bank executive told me that whenever he had some time to kill, he would go through his old bank statements and recalculate the COT charges manually. Without fail, he would always get back a couple of hundreds of thousands of naira in charges once he complained to the bank and showed them his calculation. What kind of business model is this where actively robbing your customers is a normal Monday to you? I hate it all.
Anyway, they said I should tell you people that the chances of you getting a President Emefiele and Vice President Malami in 2023 is significantly greater than zero. If this is your cup of tea, you don’t need to do anything. Just sit back and wait with glee. Ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies.
Sometimes you just see stuff that makes you alarmed. On my way out of Lagos, I got to the BA check-in desk at MMIA and a staff member (I think he was a BA staff) was checking documents for travellers before passing them on to another person to do the exact same thing. To my amazement, this guy was using what looked like his personal mobile phone to take photos of everyone’s passport biodata page, passenger locator form and COVID-19 test.
For all I know, my passport details are on the mobile phone of some guy in Lagos now. Why? If the scanner is broken surely there is another way to do this? And that’s assuming you really need to take photos of them. I despair.
Yewande Sadiku’s appreciation: You’re appreciated. You are. I’m sorry that you suffered serving your country and I wish that you didn’t. I desperately want to say it was all for some greater cause or some deeper hidden meaning. I fear it was just that – gratuitous, pointless. But it’s okay.
- Feyi Fawehinmi is an accountant, photographer and published author.